(Above: me in college)
Last weekend I got a visit a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen for a while, and the first thing he said was "I hardly recognize you. You look happier than you've been in years."
And he's right. This has been the best summer I've had in decades.
It started with my college reunion in New Haven, followed by a memorable trip to the Gettysburg battlefield. Next, I adopted two new healthy, happy little kittens who, after years of my taking care of a very old, very sick and very fearful cat, have brought joy back into my life 24/7.
But the capper came a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered something about myself I never guessed before.
I was watching historian David McCullough on C-SPAN, and he praised a professor he had at Yale named Vincent Scully – no relation to Dodgers announcer Vin Scully - who taught history of architecture.
He said some of the things Scully said were so memorable, he can quote them word-for-word to this day.
I went to Yale, too, 12 years after McCullough. And I, too, took Scully's course. But I can't remember anything he said because I never heard it. I slept through every class.
I also took an American history course from an equally celebrated professor named John Morton Blum. But I slept through all his classes, too.
Ditto for the great philosopher Paul Weiss, who taught a course on ethics.
In short, I sleepwalked all the way through college. I never cracked a book, never attended a class, and never went out for extra-curricular activities. (You'd think I would have gone out for the college newspaper, but no. Not even that.)
And I kept sleepwalking long after college. I've spent my whole life squandering great opportunities, including relationships with two wonderful women whom I should have married when I had the chance. And I've been kicking myself for blowing my chances, both personal and professional, ever since. Mine has been a lifetime filled with regrets.
Watching McCullough talk about Scully brought all those feelings back, so I decided to share them with my therapist.
I was stunned by her response: "Why are you blaming yourself? You were depressed when you were in college."
"Really?" I said.
"Of course," she replied. "Seeping through classes, disengaging – these are classic symptoms."
"Really?" I said again. "You mean I'm not a bad guy after all?"
"Of course not," she said." "How could anyone go through the horrible childhood you had without being depressed? What's more, I think you've been depressed all your life."
It was like the time when I was a little kid, when somebody told me the real story about Santa Claus. The moment she said it, I knew in my heart it was true.
And I can't tell you how liberating that self-knowledge has been. For one thing, I'm off the hook. I can stop blaming myself for blowing my opportunities.
Even more important, I can now start living the way I should have been doing all along. Whenever I'm tempted to close myself off from life, I can say to myself, "Martin, that's just your depression talking. Go do it anyway."
I tell you, I've never been so happy ever since I found out I was depressed.